Do we add sorbates to the wine?
Some wineries add potassium sorbate, a preservative, to their wine to prevent wines with any residual sugar from re-fermenting. Sorbate does not kill any remaining yeast cells, but does inhibit their activity so they can’t ferment the sugar and cause the wine to become bubbly and possibly blow corks out of the bottle.
Manatawny Creek Winery does not use potassium sorbate; instead, we remove any remaining yeast cells by sterilizing our bottling equipment and sterile-filtering sweet wines. We run water at 210 degrees generated by our kerosene-burning pressure washer through our bottling line to kill any bacteria or yeast, effectively sterilizing the equipment. Sterlizing the equipment will not do any good unless you remove the yeast and bacteria from the wine before it enters the equipment. This is accomplished through filtration. We pump the wine through a sterile filter cartridge before it enters the bottling equipment. Sterile bottling is a lot more work than adding sorbates, but many people find the taste of sorbates offensive, and we feel a higher quality product is achieved without their use.
Do you actually add any of the flavors to the wine that you describe in the tasting notes?
The answer is that we never add any flavorings to our wine - all the flavors that are described occur naturally from either the grapes themselves, the yeast during fermentation, or oak barrels during aging. For example, even though most of our wines are made from grapes, other fruits like strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and blackberry emerge from the grape during fermentation. These fruit flavors and aromas are very subtle most of the time, but often you can detect them when you are looking for them. Other aromas and flavors, like butterscotch for example, are caused by malolactic bacteria during a secondary fermentation (see website for last month's question of the month). Wines that are aged in oak, like the Cabernet Franc and Merlot, exhibit aromas of vanilla and toasty wood, which are extracted from the barrel into the wine during the aging process. Certain types of grapes make wines with distinct characteristics. As an example, Gewurztraminer, a white grape, will often make a wine that has aromas of rose petals and lychee nuts. Pinot Noir, a red grape, may contain aromas of strawberries, mushrooms and violets. So next time you've got a glass of wine in front of you, open your mind to all of the many possible flavors and aromas, and see if that changes your wine-drinking experience!
What are sulfites and should we be concerned about them?
Sulfites are a class of compounds added to wine and other foods as a preservative. They are natural compounds that have been used as an anti-oxidant and anti-microbial agent in wines since early recorded history. Concern arose over sulfites when people got sick by eating food at salad bars that was treated with very high levels of sulfites. There are some misconceptions about sulfites that we'll try to clear up:
* All wines contain sulfites ? red, white, French, American, Australian, etc. Yeast naturally produce sulfites during fermentation. Nearly all winemakers add sulfites, including those from all over the world. The U.S. Government requires wine sold in the U.S. to label wine if it contains sulfites. If you drink foreign wine while abroad, you are not being warned, but the wine still contains sulfites. Organic wine must be made without added sulfites, but these wines are quite perishable. The level of sulfites in wine is very small, especially when compared to other foods. Typical levels in wines are about 80 ? 100 ppm (parts per million). Dried fruit, such as apples and apricots are typically packaged with 500 ? 2000 ppm sulfites.
* Research has shown that sulfites do not cause headaches. There is something in red wine linked to headaches, but the cause has not yet been found. We recommend drinking extra water when you drink wine, simply to avoid dehydration which can cause headaches.
What are tannins in wine?
Tannins are compounds in wine that dry out your mouth; in fact, many people get the terms “dry” and “tannic” confused for that reason. Dry simply means a lack of sweetness. Tannic means a noticeable level of tannins. They are detectable because they bind with the proteins in your mouth leaving a dry, puckering sensation. These compounds are present in the skins and seeds of grapes. Red wines have more tannins than whites since red grapes are fermented in contact with the skins and seeds. Winemakers who want to get more tannins in their red wines, will leave the wine on the skins and seeds for a long period of time during fermentation. Winemakers who want less tannins may use fining agents to remove tannins from a wine. Tannins are also present in oak, so wines that are aged in oak barrels tend to be more tannic due to the tannins extracted from the barrel.
Tannins are a part of a group of compounds called Phenolics and have antioxidant properties which have been in the news lately because of the health benefits. The amount of tannins that people like in a wine is a very subjective thing. Some people like more than others. The type of food you are eating with a wine may also determine your enjoyment level regarding tannins. At Manatawny Creek Winery, we tend to make our wines with relatively low levels of tannins.
What are tartrates?
Sometimes you will find some tartrate crystals in a bottle of wine, particularly stuck to the cork or settled to the bottom of the bottle. These crystals are comprised of potassium bitartrate, also known as cream of tartar in your kitchen, and are completely harmless. During the winemaking process, a wine is often cold-stabilized to try and remove these crystals; this is accomplished by holding the wine at a very cold temperature for a length of time, usually a few weeks. However, the removal of tartrates is a solubility issue as well as a temperature issue and can take a long time. Therefore, after a wine is bottled and held for a time, more tartrate crystals may precipitate out of the wine and show up in your glass. But now you know that they are no big deal and you can impress your friends at dinner parties with your knowledge of potassium bitartrate!
What do oak barrels contribute to a wine and what is the difference between French and American oak?
White oak is the favorite wood used in barrels and imparts both flavors and tannins to wine. Typical oak flavors include vanilla, toast and smoke. The barrels lose their ability to impart flavors after 3 to 5 years of use and the oak character diminishes each year. Wineries who use new oak every year need to charge more for the wine because barrels are so expensive; a typical American barrel costs about $350 while French barrels can cost over $700. Many winemakers think that American oak has a stronger, sweeter character than its French counterpart. The other major region of the world that supplies oak for barrels is Hungary and Hungarian oak barrels seem to have a more smoky character than others. Most of the oak in America comes from Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Ohio, but it turns out that the Appalachian mountains in Pennsylvania are a great source for slow-growing oak and companies are starting to make PA barrels. Most of the barrels we use at Manatawny Creek Winery are Pennsylvania oak barrels for a truly PA product. French oak is used in our Pinot Noir and Hungarian oak is used in our Merlot, but PA oak dominates the Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Meritage!
What does Methode Champenoise mean?
We tell you that our Blanc de Blancs is made in the traditional Methode Champenoise style but what does that really mean? And how on earth do you pronounce it? According to my favorite book, Wine Lover’s Companion, it is pronounced may-TOD shahm-peh-NWAHZ. It is a process where the bubbles are produced by a secondary fermentation that actually takes place in the bottle. We put a base wine with some added sugar and yeast into bottles closed with crown caps. The yeast ferment the sugar producing carbon dioxide that has nowhere to escape to, causing bubbles to form. After about a year in “tirage”, these bottles are put in riddling racks, where they are subjected to turning every day until all of the sediment from the fermentation has fallen into the neck of the bottle. Then, one cold day in the winter, we disgorge to remove the sediment; this is done by freezing the necks of the bottles so the sediment is trapped in an ice plug. The bottles are turned over, the crown caps removed, and the ice plug shoots out of the bottle. We than add a dosage of wine and sugar and cork the bottle. A wirehood is placed over the cork so the cork is not pushed out of the bottle by all the pressure. It’s a heck of a lot of work, but well worth it!
What exactly is Port?
Port is a sweet, fortified wine that is typically served after a meal. The process to make port differs from the typical winemaking process for table wines in that the fermentation is stopped about halfway by the addition of grape neutral spirits. This results in a wine with an alcohol content between 18% and 20% with a lot of the natural sweetness from the grape remaining. Port originated in Portugal’s Douro Valley and the name comes from the fact that historically, these wines were shipped out of the city of Oporto.
There are three basic categories of port made with red grapes – vintage, ruby and tawny (white port is made with white grapes but is much less common). Vintage ports, the expensive type, are made from grapes of a single vintage and are typically bottled with only a little more than a year of aging in barrel. They are only made in declared years in Portugal and the consumer is expected to do most of the aging since Vintage port gets better with age and often needs many years to become drinkable. Ruby port can be made from grapes of different vintages and is aged for about 2 years before release. It is typically ready to drink when released and is simpler and less expensive than Vintage port. Tawny ports are made from grapes of different vintages and aged in barrels to purposely undergo slow oxidation; this turns the color of the red wine to a tawny color and gives it a unique character. The label of a Tawny port will often show the average number of years of aging - typically 10, 20, 30 or over 40 years.
The grape varieties used in port in Portugal are numerous and varied and do not include anything that we grow in Pennsylvania. At Manatawny Creek, we make our port from Cabernet Franc, one of the red varieties that grows very well in our area. We produce it in the vintage port style, using grapes from a single vintage and bottling the wine after 1 year of aging in neutral oak. Our port definitely benefits from several years of aging and, just like true Portuguese Port, is the ideal beverage to pair with chocolate!
What happens to all of the grape skins, seeds and stems leftover after processing?
The first step in making wine is running the grapes through the destemmer/crusher which separates the grapes from the stems. The second step is separating either the juice or wine from the skins and seeds in the press. Since we process about 60 tons of grapes at our winery during harvest, a lot of waste is generated. We take all this waste, along with horse manure from neighbors, out to our composting area and turn waste into fertilizer. If you are standing on the deck at the winery in the wintertime (when the leaves are off the trees), you may be able to see the composting area in the field behind the line of trees. There are several compost piles in various states of completeness going from young brown piles to old black piles. Once the piles are nice and black, we spread the completed compost on the dormant grapevines in November to add nutrients, organic matter, and beneficial microorganisms. The use of compost precludes the use of chemical fertilizers and is a large part of our goal to farm in a more sustainable manner.
What is a Malolactic Fermentation?
Malolactic (often shortened to ML) fermentation, sometimes called the secondary fermentation, typically follows the primary fermentation (where the yeast convert sugar to alcohol). In this ML fermentation, bacteria convert malic acid in the wine to lactic acid, thereby reducing acidity and making the wine softer. Sometimes these bacteria produce a buttery or butterscotch character during the fermentation. ML bacteria are added to certain wines depending on the desired style. At Manatawny Creek Winery, we put all of the dry reds through ML including the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Meritage and Chambourcin. The only white that typically gets put through ML is the Chardonnay; the butterscotch character that may be noticeable in the Chardonnay is due to the ML fermentation. The Pinot Grigio may or may not get put through ML depending on the acidity. Fruity wines like the Riesling or Vidal Blanc will not get ML bacteria added, because we do not want anything to take away from the fruit.
What is ice wine?
Ice wine (or Eiswein in Germany ) is a term referring to a rich, sweet dessert wine made from grapes that have been picked frozen on the vine and pressed before they thaw. Since a lot of the water present in the grapes is frozen and stays in the press, the resulting juice is very concentrated, yielding high sugars and acids. The wine made from this juice is very concentrated and flavorful, the high level of sweetness balanced out by the high acidity. Ice wine is typically very expensive because of the low yields that occur from pressing frozen grapes. Temperatures of 18 degrees Fahrenheit are needed to freeze the grapes on the vine, which should explain why we, at Manatawny Creek Winery, do not make it - we are a bit too far south to get these temperatures on a consistent basis.
Ice wine is traditionally made from German white grape varieties such as Riesling. Ontario , Canada has made a name for itself by making ice wine out of Vidal Blanc. There is a bit of a controversy in the ice wine world regarding cryo-extracted or "freezer wines" where the grapes are picked and put in a freezer before they are pressed. Some countries, such as Canada and Germany , have laws forbidding labeling these types of wines ice wines. However it's made, ice wine makes a wonderful dessert wine and, if the global warming trend reverses, maybe we can make it someday!
What is that big tank on the crush pad used for?
It is our Ganimede tank and is a special tank used to ferment red wines. There is a cone inside that collects the carbon dioxide generated during fermentation; every few hours, a valve is opened that releases the carbon dioxide and disturbs the cap that is formed. In this manner, the skins that rise to the surface to form the cap now come in contact with the wine, imparting color and tannins. We can only use this tank when we have at least 3 tons of 1 variety of grapes. Otherwise, we need to ferment in the macrobins and punch the cap down by hand which is backbreaking work sometimes.
If you happen to be sitting on the deck during harvest, you may feel like you’re in the middle of an earthquake when the valves on this tank open – it gets rather violent!
What is the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine and why don't we call our bubbly Champagne ?
The answer is pretty simple; our vineyards are not located in Champagne, France. So why the confusion? Because some of the large bulk wine producers in California and New York started calling their cheap sparkling wine Champagne . This, of course, infuriated the French. True Champagne comes only from France 's northernmost winegrowing area, the Champagne region. Manatawny Creek Winery, along with most American sparkling wine producers, elects to use the term sparkling wine in order to show respect to this great wine-producing area. True Champagne also requires the use of ?methode champenoise? which is the traditional method of producing bubbles in the wine by conducting a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Both of our bubblies are produced using methode champenoise, a very labor-intensive production method. But one that produces very tasty results! And remember, Champagne and Sparkling wines are not just for New Years' celebrations ? they should be enjoyed throughout the year!
What kind of alcohol is added to the Port?
This question was asked by a customer in the tasting room last week and I thought it was a good one. Port is traditionally made by stopping the fermentation through the addition of alcohol; the alcohol kills the yeast so there is remaining sugar left in the wine to provide sweetness. The alcohol added is termed “brandy”. The definition of brandy is an alcohol that is distilled from wine, the wine usually being made from grapes. Commercial brandies, such as Cognac, are not what is used to make Port – these are usually about 40% alcohol and have been aged in barrels to acquire flavor and color. Brandy used in Port production is very neutral and has an alcohol content of 70 to 80%, often called grape neutral spirits. We leave our Cabernet Franc Port in neutral oak barrels for at least a year to allow the grape neutral spirits to integrate with the wine, creating a delicious Port!
What makes a pink wine pink?
Both our blush and rosé wines are actually made from red grapes. Typically red grapes are crushed and fermented on the skins so the color is extracted from the skins into the juice. This process usually takes about a week to ten days before the wine is separated from the skins in the press. To make a pink wine, the skins are only left in contact with the juice for a short time, usually about 24 hours. This short contact time allows only a small extraction of the color from the skins. This lack of skin contact also results in a lighter-bodied wine with less tannins. Rosé wines are popular in France where they are often made slightly sweet, especially in the Loire Valley. The term blush wine has replaced the term rosé wine in the United States for the most part and probably the most well-known blush wine in the country is White Zinfandel which is made from red Zinfandel grapes.
What's involved with pressing red wines?
Red wines are fermented in macrobins, the same bins we pick our grapes into; they hold about ½ ton of fruit and ¾ ton of must. The first picture shows 2 bins with completed red wine fermentations. The red wine in the bins needs to get separated from the skins and seeds. It gets pumped out through large hoses using a must pump, shown in the second picture. The must is pumped into the press (third picture) where compressed air fills a bladder and forces the must against a stainless steel screen. The wine flows out through the slats in the screen and is pumped into a tank for settling. After this process is finished, the bladder is deflated and the press rotated to dump the dry pomace, which is transferred out to our compost area. It’s all very messy and by the end of the day, everyone is covered in red wine stains – we need to change clothes before going anywhere lest people think we were part of a crime scene!
Why do we do "punchdowns"?
This question comes from my 13-year-old son who asked it while he was actually doing a punchdown; it was my turn in the rotation, but my back was tired! We ferment red wines on the skins in a macrobin. Four times per day we do a punchdown where we punch the cap of skins formed from rising carbon dioxide back into the fermenting juice/wine mixture. In this manner, we get the skins in contact with the liquid so the color compounds, called anthocyanins, that exist in the skins can get transferred to the wine. This is what gives red wine its color. Other compounds, mostly tannins, are also extracted from the skins. A great way to get an upper body workout in while making wine!